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Tzaraat

Scapegoat: The Origins of the Crimson Thread

During the Second Temple period, the scapegoat was tied with a crimson thread. While the Torah requires a crimson thread as part of the purification ritual for tzaraʿat (skin disease), it does not mention it by the scapegoat. Nevertheless, parallel practices found in 2nd millennium B.C.E. Hittite texts of Luwian origin imply that the use of a crimson thread is not a late innovation but an ancient part of the rite.

Dr.

Noga Ayali-Darshan

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Tum’ah: Ritual Impurity or Fear of Contagious Disease?

Already in the early 2nd millennium B.C.E., people knew that diseases were contagious, and fear of contagion plays a key role in the Torah’s laws regarding the skin ailment, tzaraʿat. What does this mean for understanding other kinds of tum’ah?

Dr.

Yitzhaq Feder

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Tzaraat as Cancer

Dr.

Chaim Trachtman

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The Skin of the Metzora and the Heart of the Messiah

Prof.

Wendy Zierler

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Tzaraat in Light of Its Mesopotamian Parallels

Notwithstanding its lengthy coverage of tzaraat (צרעת, biblical “leprosy”), why does the Torah omit discussion of its cause (sin?), its infectiousness, and its treatment? Comparison to the Mesopotamian rituals pertaining to a strikingly similar disease (Saḫaršubbû) shows that these omissions were far from accidental.

Dr.

Yitzhaq Feder

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Re-Encountering Miriam

The biblical portrait of Miriam can leave the feminist reader with a lingering bitterness but a literary rereading may help highlight her prophetic leadership role.

Prof.

Wendy Zierler

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A Sin Offering for Birth Anxiety

Following the purification period after birth, a mother must bring a חטאת –“sin offering,” despite her having committed no obvious sin. This offers us a unique glimpse into the prehistory of the Israelite cult, when apotropaic rituals (used to protect against dangerous forces) like those in other ANE cultures, were the norm.

Dr.

Yitzhaq Feder

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Coronavirus: What We Can Learn from the Bible and the ANE

An expert in ancient Near Eastern contagious diseases reflects on living through a modern one.

Dr.

Yitzhaq Feder